28 July 2002
This is the Hansard transcript of an adjournment debate secured by Tam Dalyell in the UK House of Commons on Tuesday, as an attempt to address unanswered questions about the Lockerbie bombing. In addition, Dalyell tabled some related questions during the Intelligence Services Committee debate on 11 July [below].
House of Commons Debate
23 Jul 2002 : Columns 956-962
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): May I start my 17th Adjournment debate on the appalling crime that was Lockerbie with a personal word of explanation? Alongside some British relatives dedicated to truth and justice, and other people, not least Nelson Mandela, I helped to persuade the Libyans to surrender Mr. Fhimah and Mr. Megrahi for a trial under the Scottish judicial system in a third country. In good faith, we believed and hoped that the trial at Zeist would be satisfactory and convincing. Alas, it was not.
For an adversarial system of justice to arrive at the truth requires both of the adversaries to place before the court all information available to them. In the Lockerbie trial, the defence team of Abdel Bassett al Megrahi chose not to do so. In such circumstances, the adversarial system does not work if we want to arrive at the truth. I therefore ask the following questions.
Does the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have any knowledge of an $11 million payment having been received by the Popular Front for the Liberation of PalestineGeneral Command on or about 23 December 1988, evidenced by a credit to a bank in Lausanne, and moved from there to an account at the Banque Nationale de Paris, and thence to the Hungarian Development Bank?
Or does it have knowledge of a payment of $500,000 made on or about 25 April 1989 to the Degussa bank of Frankfurt and Mohammed Abu Talb, a convicted murderer, incriminee of the Lockerbie trial and a long-term suspect in the Pan-Am 103 bombing?
Secondly, if the Security Service had any knowledge of either payment, did it communicate that knowledge, in whole or in part, to any police force in the United Kingdom and/or to the Crown Office in Edinburgh? If such knowledge was imparted, when was it imparted?
Thirdly, did the intelligence services discover the identity of "Abu Elias", which is believed to be the nom de guerre of the person who, according to the Goben memorandum, conspired to place a bomb aboard a plane in Frankfurt on 21 December 1988, and who, according to Marwan Khreesat, was part of the Autumn Leaves conspiracy uncovered in Germany in October 1988? If so, what is believed to be the name of that individual, and were his movements between October and December 1988 detected?
Fourthly, when Mr. Alan Turnbull and Mr. Norman McFadyen went to the US embassy in The Hague on the Lord Advocate's behalf on or about 1 June 2000 to view unredacted CIA cablesrecording meetings with the prosecution witness, Jiachawas an assurance or undertaking, whether written or verbal, given by them to British intelligence or to the US authorities that they would not disclose what they had been shown?
Fifthly, on what date did the Crown witness, Mohammed Abu Talb, arrive at Zeist, and on what date did he depart? During the period he was incarcerated at Zeist prison, was he visited by Crown-listed witness Jamilla Mougrabi, his former wife, or any representatives of the prosecution, or the US Department of Justice?
If so, who authorised such visits, when were they made and what was their approximate duration? What was the purpose of any such visits, by either the prosecution or the US Department of Justice, and was there any record in audio, video or in writing of them?
Sixthly, was the Crown witness Jiacha interviewed by, or did he meet, any representatives of the prosecution or the US Department of Justice, outwith the witness box during the period when he was a sworn witness? If so, who authorised such meetings or interviews, when and where did they take place, and who was present?
Seventhly, did the UK know of any inducements or undertakings given to Crown witness Mohammed Abu Talb to encourage him to give evidence for the Crown at the Zeist trial? If so, what is that knowledge?
Eighthly, was Crown witness Tony Gauchi, the Maltese shopkeeper, taken to the USA or to the UK at any time before he gave evidence at the Zeist trial? If so, when did such visits take place, who instigated them and what was their purpose?
I believe that there has been a catastrophic miscarriage of justice and that an innocent man is in Barlinnie tonight and every night for more than 19 years.
Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove): I support the Father of the House [senior member] and congratulate him on securing the debate. When the Minister replies, I hope that he will respond to a principal issue that concerns one of my constituents, Dr. Jim Swire, who, I believe, is listening to these proceedings. His daughter, Flora, was murdered on the night of Lockerbie in the aeroplane. He has been campaigning for a long time for a public inquiry into the circumstances of that night.
I agree with Dr. Swire that, of the many incidents that have occurred in the UK, Lockerbie is the biggest mass killing that has ever taken place. There have been public inquiries into other incidents, but there has still to be a public inquiry on Lockerbie. Successive Governments have said that there should not be such an inquiry due to the legal proceedings that were taking place against suspects. Irrespective of the guilt or innocence of the individual who has been found guilty of the Lockerbie bombing, judicial proceedings are now completed and there is no prospect of anyone else facing charges. The view of the Foreign Office that there should not be a public inquiry because it might prejudice the judicial proceedings now lapses.
When the Minister answers the points raised by the Father of the House, I should be grateful if he would take up the issue of the Government holding a public inquiry into this important issue, not least in the light of the circumstances of 11 September. There is a greater need for people to feel reassured by airport security. The lessons that might have been learned from the Lockerbie incident might well be relevant a decade later. I hope that the Minister will respond to that point.
Mr. Russell Brown (Dumfries): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) on securing the debate. I was a local councillor in the area when the tragedy happened. As time progressed and we moved towards trying to secure the arrest of two individuals who were suspected at that time, I was heavily involved as chair of the police authority in my area. I did not receive regular information about how the case was proceeding or evidence was being drawn together. I was fairly confident that the process of pulling together evidence and pursuing the case was fairly straightforward and above board. We have been dealing with probably the worst terrorist tragedy that this country has ever seen. Heaven forbid that that tragedy is ever exceeded in any shape or form.
My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow had the confidence at the time to plead the case for a trial to be heard under Scottish law. That trial has been heard. An appeal on behalf of al Megrahi has also been heard. If the defence team representing that individual chose not to put forward an appropriate defence, little can be done about that. I am not convinced, however, that those in his defence team did not advance the appropriate defence to try to secure the release of their client.
Having said that, there are a considerable number of unanswered questions, to which the families need answersonly time will tell whether they will be as detailed as some of the questions that my hon. Friend has asked this evening.
I, like others, have asked about the possibility of holding a public inquiry into the incident. I have met the Foreign Secretary. On a further occasion, I met him and some of the relatives, and he clearly explained that, although a public inquiry is being called for, there is sometimes more than one way to get answers. Sometimes, public inquiries have not delivered what people have sought: truth and justice into a number of incidents that have tragically befallen families.
I hope that the Minister can give us an indication at least about whether we are moving towards a public inquiry andif not a public inquiryabout how families in this country, America and other countries who lost loved ones can, at the end of the day, get answers to some of the basic questions that arose on the evening of that tragic event.
Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk): As the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Brown) rightly points out, what the families want above all else is the truth. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Miss Kirkbride), I represent a couple of constituentsMartin and Rita Cadmanwho lost their beloved son in this appalling murder, and what they want above all else is the truth.
There are a number of lose ends, and we have not had answers to our questions. There will be many excuses as to why they have not been investigated hitherto, but the time has now come to have a proper, full public inquiry. I very much hope that the Minister will be able to answer the questions posed by the Father of the House.
This is the first time for some months that we have discussed this subject. Obviously, until fairly recently much of what has been said tonight would have been considered sub judice because of the ongoing legal action. I congratulate the Father of the House on this debate, and we must have answers to those questions.
I wish to put a couple of other questions to the Minister. First, we know that the hangar in which the luggage that was in transit was being transferred on to the fatal flight was broken into, but we have not yet had an explanation of why there has not been a proper investigation into what happened that evening during that break-in.
Secondly, the scene of the appalling crash obviously covered many square miles, but it is common knowledge that, within hours of daylight, dozens of CIA agents were crawling over the site. We have not yet had an explanation of what they were doing there, who had liaised with them, who had given them the authority to go on to the site and exactly what they were doing.
I would just add those two questions to those posed by the Father of the House. We must have answers to those questions, but, above all else, we need a full public inquiry into this appalling murderthe worst in the country's history.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mike O'Brien): I congratulate the Father of the House, my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), on obtaining this debate on an enormously serious issue.
The destruction of Pan Am 103 at Lockerbie, with the loss of 270 lives, was
the most horrendous terrorist attack ever carried out in the United Kingdom.
For everyone involved in the attack, particularly those whose loved ones
were murdered, the horror and tragedy of what happened on 21 December 1988
can never go away. Dr. Jim Swire wrote to the Foreign Secretary this week:
Confronted with such a savage attack on its citizens, the British Government have a moral and practical imperative to answer key questions. Who was responsible? How did they do it? Could we have stopped them? How can we make sure it never happens again?
Despite the cynicism of those who thought we would never make progress, the Government have responded to these imperatives and these questions with an unprecedented police, diplomatic and legal mobilisation. Those efforts have produced results. Last year, the unique format of a Scottish court sitting at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands convicted Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, an agent of the Libyan Intelligence Services, of conspiracy to bomb the plane. The conviction was upheld on appeal in March.
I am assured that the conviction answers many of the key questions. How did it happen? A bomb was loaded on to a plane at Frankfurt, concealed inside a cassette recorder. The bomb was set to explode while the plane was en route from Heathrow to New York
Who did it? One or more officers of the Libyan Intelligence Services, including
Megrahi. We know a good deal about why. The court established that the murders
were carried out:
I do not know what motivated the Libyan Intelligence Services to carry out such an attack. Nor whether the attack was carried out with high-level authorisation. But we are clear that for a number of years in the 1980s, Libya used terrorism as a foreign policy lever. The destruction of Pan Am 103 was followed by equally savage attacks on UTA flight 772 and the La Belle disco. The international community showed its detestation of those attacks by applying a comprehensive sanctions regime to Libya for much of the 1990s. Those sanctions demonstrated Libya's separation from the civilised world and were intended to penalise Libya economically.
In response to those sanctions, Libya has, since the early 1990s, radically changed the basis of its foreign policy. It no longer uses terror as a tool. The UK has responded to thisand particularly Libya's surrender of Megrahi and another suspect for the Lockerbie bombingby re-establishing diplomatic relations and agreeing to the suspension of the UN sanctions regime.
However, it remains essential that Libya makes amends for Lockerbie by satisfying the requirements that the United Nations Security Council has set out. Libya took a crucial step by releasing two suspects for trial, but only when all the requirements have been met will we support the final lifting of sanctions.
The four requirements are that Libya should renounce terrorism, agree to co-operate with further police inquiries into Lockerbie, pay compensation and accept responsibility for the actions of its official. We are talking diplomatically, at senior official level, with the Libyan and American Governments about those requirements. Our discussions are progressing well, but are not yet finished.
We wish to see our relations with Libya improve and to see United Nations sanctions lifted as soon as possible. However, realising these benefits will be possible only once Libya has wholly satisfied the requirements. We will, of course, keep the relatives and this House informed of future progress on the diplomatic track.
That is our current approach to Lockerbie. I now turn to the two specific questions that my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow asked during Foreign Office questions this afternoon. First, he asked whether British security and intelligence services have any knowledge of an $11 million payment, having been received by the PFLP-GC on 23 December 1988?
Various reports of PFLP-GC funding emerged after the bombing of Pan Am flight 103. The intelligence agencies investigated all those reports and found none to have any relevance to the attack. I am informed that there is no connection between the payments and Lockerbie. Indeed, I have been told that the intelligence services are not aware of any payment that corresponds with the details given in the question.
I am informed that a similar amount was paid 18 months before the Lockerbie attack, but that there is no connection between the two. The Government's view is that the PFLP-GC did not carry out the Lockerbie bombing. If that payment was related to other issues, we do not know precisely what they are, but it is our view that the lapse of time between the making of the payment and the eventual outrage suggests that the two were not linked.
My hon. Friend's second question was whether the security and intelligence services had any knowledge of a payment of $500,000 to Mohammed Abu Talb on 25 April 1989. I am advised that the answer is no; the services have no such knowledge. There were references to money in Talb's evidence given at the Lockerbie trial$5,000 in relation to the Copenhagen bombings, a bank loan of 45,000 krone that Talb secured to start a video business, and a sickness benefit payment of 4,000 kronebut I am advised that the services have no references from this or any other source to amounts or dates that correspond to those mentioned by my hon. Friend.
I am aware that during the Intelligence Services Committee debate on 11 July [below], my hon. Friend raised a number of other detailed questions. It remains the Foreign Secretary's intention to write to him with a full reply to those and the further questions that he has raised. I would say to my hon. Friend that the Lord Advocate is responsible for the Turnbull matters, and I understand that he will write to my hon. Friend about them. In relation to any possible further charges, Dumfries and Galloway police have complete freedom to investigate and bring charges as they see fit. Part of our diplomatic effort is to ensure Libyan co-operation with these inquiries.
I would like to address one other issue that my hon. Friend raised on that previous occasion, namely, the role of Eliza Manningham-Buller. The Security Service announced to the press at the time of Ms Manningham- Buller's appointment as director-general that she had previously been head of the section responsible for counter-terrorism. She held that role at the time of the Lockerbie attacka time when that section's work was, of course, dominated by that awful event. She was head of counter-terrorism; she worked on the Lockerbie case. So what? What else would she have done?
I turn finally to the important issue of a public inquiry. The Foreign Office has had regular contact with the relatives in recent years. The Foreign Secretary has met them twice in the last year to brief them on the progress of diplomatic talks with the Libyans and to discuss their interest in a further inquiry. I say "further inquiry" because there have been several inquiries already. There has been a hearing of the Air Accident Investigation Board, a fatal accident inquiry, an inquest, a criminal trial and an appeal. The Select Committee on Transport has reviewed aviation security in the light of Lockerbie. Numerous Departments and agencies of government have reviewed their workings to ensure that the lessons of Lockerbie have been learned. Much has been learned and many procedures have been changed. Aviation security has been entirely overhauled since 1988.
On 21 May, the Foreign Secretary met the relatives and ran through the reasons why the Government do not favour a public inquiry. Above all, we cannot see any areas of uncertainty that such an inquiry could effectively address. The trial has, as I have explained, clarified a great deal. The exact motivation for the attack is something that perhaps only Megrahi can fully explain. I hope that he will do so at some point.
Mr. Dalyell: Will my hon. Friend give way?
Mr. O'Brien: We are pressed for time, but I will give way briefly.
Mr. Dalyell: I saw Megrahi for two and a quarter hours, and he explained everything. He told me that he was a sanctions buster for Libyan Arab Airlines, which is a bit different from being a mass murderer.
Mr. O'Brien: Being a sanctions buster may well be somewhat different from being a mass murderer, but it is not my role as a Minister of the Crown to second-guess the finding of a court that has heard all the evidence and looked at all the circumstances. These issues have been looked at very thoroughly and, in my view, so far as we can evaluate this, the conviction was made as a result of the evidence put before the court.
I cannot imagine how a public inquiry would compel Megrahi to set out the details of the motivation that allowed him to act as he did. Public inquiries are poorly adapted to the handling of intelligence material, particularly material obtained through liaison with foreign services. Of course, it must be accepted that those services might not agree to disclose such material. Furthermore, a great deal of time has passed since Lockerbie. Many potential participants in an inquiry will have retired, died or lost detailed recall of some of the issues of the 1980s, even if the tragedy itself will always be burned in their minds.
As the Government cannot see the potential benefit of an inquiry, it is hard to justify such a lengthy and expensive process. With regret for the disappointment that this will cause to the families, I therefore have to repeat the Foreign Secretary's messagethe same has been said in the Chamber on several occasionsthat we will not be calling a public inquiry.
However, as I told the House this afternoon, we remain open to other forms of review, inquiry, scrutiny or study that will add to the families' and our knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the Lockerbie bombing. We will continue to consider the options. If we can find a focused approach that offers insight, without the shortcomings that I have mentioned, this Government will pursue it. I will seek to keep the House and the families informed, as will my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.
This is a matter that we are deeply and seriously concerned about, but we want to consider it further. We want to ensure that, when we do make some judgments on how to take the matter forward, they are the right ones. We owe that to the families and, indeed, to all involved.
Question put and agreed to.
Adjourned accordingly at twenty-eight minutes to Eleven o'clock.
11 Jul 2002 : Columns 1096-1098
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): I was a friend from 1967 until he died in March 1981, of the late Sir Maurice Oldfield, head of MI6 from 1973 to 1978. During my national service with the Scots Greys in Rhine Army in 195152, I had a good deal to do with field intelligence. As Richard Crossman's Parliamentary Private Secretary from 1964 to 1970, on account of his wartime background in intelligence dealing with the Americans on General Bedell Smith's staff in Algiers from 1943 onwards, I got to know well George Wigg, Solly Zuckerman, Harry Chapman Pincher, Hugh Carlton Green and other members of the intelligence community.
I say this simply to establish that I am neither silly about nor antagonistic to the intelligence community. Many fine people have worked for it to the advantage of us all.
I want succinctly to raise one aspect of intelligence and it refers to Lockerbie.
The Lockerbie relative, Martin Cadman, who lost his son in the Pan Am disaster tells me that relatives of air victims including Dr. and Mrs. Jim Swire, Barrie Berkley, Mrs. Elizabeth Delude-Dix and himself met the US President's Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism in the US embassy in London on Friday 16 February 1990 from 18.10 to 19.10. Much of that important meeting was taken up with the treatment of relatives by the US authorities after the disaster.
After the meeting was over, Mr. Cadman, who is highly credible and well known
to a number of hon. Members, said that one commissioner, whose name he did
not know said to him:
That statement has been published in a letter to The Guardian, in the film "The Maltese Double Cross" and in the special report from Private Eye "Lockerbie, The Flight from Justice May/June 2001". It has never been denied.
The commission was set up on 4 August 1989. It began its work in November 1989 and reported on 15 May 1990. The seven commissioners comprised two members from the US Senate, two from the House of Representatives, representing both parties equally, and three other members from the private sector with expertise in aviation transportation, aviation security or counter-terrorism. Their names were as follows: the chairman was Ann McLaughlin, former Secretary of Labour; Representative John Paul Hammerschmidt from Arkansas; Senator Frank Lautenburg from New Jersey; General Thomas Richards, deputy commander of US forces in western Germany; Senator Alfonse D'Amato of New York; Edward Hidalgo, the former US Navy Secretary and James Oberstar, Representative from Minnesota. They were serious people.
Against this background I ask the following questions. First, does the British security and intelligence have any knowledge of an $11 million payment having been received by the PFLP-GC, the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of PalestineGeneral Command, on or about 23 December 1988 evidenced by a credit to a bank in Lausanne and a credit to the Degussa bank in Frankfurt and moved from there to an account at the Banque National de Paris and thence to one at the Hungarian Development bank?
Secondly, does British intelligence have knowledge of a payment of $500,000 on or about 25 April 1989 to Mohammed Abu Talb, a convicted murderer, who was an incriminee at the Lockerbie trial, and a long-term suspect in the Pan-Am 103 bombing? Incidentally, I was at Camp Zeist when Talb was questioned.
If security and intelligence services had any knowledge of either payments, did they communicate itin whole or in partto any police force in the UK, and/or to the Crown Office, Edinburgh? If such knowledge was imparted, when was it imparted?
What was the relationship between British intelligence and two officialsMr. Dana Biehl and Mr. Brian Murtaughfrom an office that forms part of the US Department of Justice, who sat beside the prosecution in a supposedly independent Scottish court throughout the Lockerbie trial?
These questions are well known to Ministers through the work of the distinguished Austrian jurist Hans Koechler, who was asked to attend the trial at Camp Zeist by Kofi Annan.
When Mr. Alan Turnbull and Mr. Norman McFadyen went to the US embassy in The Hague on the Lord Advocate's behalf on or about 1 June 2000 to view unredacted CIA cablesrecording meetings with the prosecution witness, Jiachawas an assurance or undertaking given by them, whether written or verbal, to British intelligence or to the US authorities that they would not disclose what they had been shown?
If any such assurance or undertaking was given, to whom was it given, and in what words?
It is a matter of public record that the new head of MI5, Miss Eliza Manningham-Buller, has been greatly involved in Lockerbie. I do not know Miss Manningham-Buller, but I should recall that her fatherthe late Lord Dilhorne, as Sir Reginald Manningham-Bullerwas the first Attorney-General in this House with whom I had dealings when I was a very young MP. He was extremely kind, painstaking and nice on the one occasion that I had to speak to him in his capacity as Attorney-General, and subsequently as Lord Chancellor. I can say nothing other than that I think extremely well of him.
Ministers should have a very frank discussion about what Miss Manningham-Buller and her colleagues know about the public record in relation to Lockerbie. We are not talking about simply a few who share my view. President Mandela has visited Abdel Bassett al Megrahi in Barlinnie prison. I spent two and a half hours visiting him, and in my view this is the most spectacular miscarriage of justice in not only Scottish, but British legal history. There ought to be a public inquiry, because in this instance, adversarial court procedures were wholly inappropriate to the objective of finding the truth. In keeping with his promise to the relatives, I hope that, before the summer recess, the Foreign Secretary will announce the setting up of a public inquiry into the international aspects of the crime that was Lockerbie.